GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Frank Ntilikina arrived in New York last season as an anomaly, a 19-year-old point guard with a 7-foot wingspan and little experience. So what to make of him now that he reported to camp an inch and a half taller at 6-6 with 15 pounds of muscle added to his slender frame?
The most important thing might be that he comes with healthy knees and ankles this year after sitting out summer league before his rookie season and playing in only two preseason games. That set him back as he struggled at times through the season.
But for year two, with no guarantees of a starting job, he hopes his offensive prowess can catch up to his defensive skill set. Coach David Fizdale has stressed a desire to have Ntilikina play to his own strengths rather than try to be something he is not.
“Yeah, he was really big in just letting me play on my instinct and for me to stop thinking,” Ntilikina said. “Last year the problem was thinking too much on the court, which brought my confidence down. The first talk we had was about this and him letting me play, letting me be confident on the court. I think having a coach like this is really, really good for your mindset. That’s why I’m really excited about this year.”
Ntilikina is intent on being more aggressive, which he showed hints of in summer league, but he wasn’t about to predict just how much of a step forward he can take.
“No numbers. I think putting numbers would limit yourself,” he said. “I just want to be really aggressive next year.’’
High praise for Robinson
Trey Burke played pickup ball with rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. He praised Knox’s potential and had an interesting comparison for Robinson.
“I don’t think everyone realizes how much Mitchell is going to bring to this team,” Burke said. “His ability to just get a rebound off of the rim, just go right back up and just dunk it, it reminded me of like a young — and this is high praise — a young Shaquille O’Neal, just skinnier. Me seeing a rookie do that, I was like, man, this kid can be great.”